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Teams are groups of like-minded people reviewing things of common interest. Here are a few examples:

Edu by VideoHackers3D Printing

4 stars
Slices and integrates nicely with Prusa printers

Slic3r is an open source slicing program with the features you’d expect. The Prusa edition adds in some integration with Prusa printers to make program setup a bit easier.

UI

UI is pretty and works well for common tasks. There are some menus and advanced features that are inscrutable until you go through the documentation. You have to manually keep track of which tab you are in. Parts only show up in 3D and 2D tabs until they have been sliced, then you can see more in preview and layers tabs. Settings are nicely laid out across 3 tabs at the top.

Slicing

Everything works quickly and as expected.

Verdict

Good piece of software made better with printer integration. Easy things are easy and hard things are possible(once you read the docs).


4 stars
Nice quiet place

I went there for lunch. It was pretty empty which was cool. Got a combo with a chicken taco and beef enchilada with red sauce, both were really good. They even put some chips under the taco to keep the enchilada sauce from making it soggy! They also give warm chips and the salsa is good. Also they were fast, my break is only 40 mins and I easily had time to enjoy it.

I’ll totally be coming back.


4 stars
Facts and factoids about nature, elegantly illustrated

Julia Rothman is an illustrator from New York; in Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World she expresses her love of nature through 223 pages filled with colorful sketches, brief explanations and descriptions.

The art is simple but elegant, conveying the most recognizable characteristics of a leaf, a mushroom or a butterfly in just a few strokes. The organization varies from page to page:

  • annotated illustrations (“anatomy of a flower”) with brief explanations;

  • illustrations without any text or explanation other than a species name;

  • illustrations with brief facts about a species (“Woodchuck: Woodchucks can climb trees if they need to escape”)

  • recipes and other offbeat material, e.g., instructions for printing plant patterns.


This kind of presentation is fairly typical for the book: elegant illustrations accompanied by one or two facts. (Credit: Julia Rothman. Fair use.)

Of course, the book can only sample the natural world (and it does so with a North American bias), but it does attempt to provide some broader explanations as well, e.g., about moon phases or the layers of Earth’s atmosphere.

Some of the text is in cursive, giving the book the feel of an intimate journal. That’s clearly the idea: making the complexity of nature less intimidating by focusing on its beauty and by conveying descriptions and explanations in a casual manner.

At the same time, this approach can no more than whet the appetite for more detailed explanations why nature is the way it is (for which speaking about evolution, which this book hardly does, is essential).

Is this approach suitable for getting young people excited about the natural world? I’m no longer a young reader, but if I was, I bet I would have been in equal parts frustrated and pulled in by this book; pulled in by its art, and frustrated by its failure to go beyond enumerating names and facts. I would give the book 5 stars for art and 3 stars for the text—a good purchase for extending one’s appreciation of the patterns of nature, if not necessarily for understanding them.


4 stars
Stories of Vienna in sepia

The Lion’s Song is an episodic cross-platform video game set in and near Vienna shortly before the First World War. The game features pixel art in a six color sepia palette, which gives it a unique look and feel.

While the game mechanics resemble point-and-click adventure games, this is more of an interactive story. There is no inventory; choices and decisions largely take the place of puzzles.

Each of the four episodes only has about 30 minutes of play time, but the game encourages you to revisit past decisions and explore the connections between the lead characters of each episode (all fictional):

  • Wilma Dörfl, a composer of humble origins who is trying to finish a pivotal piece that could make or break her career, while figuring out her relationship with her mentor;

  • Franz Markert, a painter who is making his debut in Gustav Klimt’s art salon, and who can see “layers” in the personalities of the people around him, while being unable to see them in himself;

  • Emma Recniczek, a mathematician who is looking for guidance from Vienna’s “Radius” (a circle of mathematicians who meet regularly in the backroom of a cafe), but who faces rejection because she is a woman;

  • Albert, the son of a baron who wanted to become a journalist, but finds himself forced to start a military career; during a train journey he meets people who are connected to each of the three characters above.


Franz Markert (second from left) in the art salon (Credit: Mipumi Games GmbH. Fair use.)

The second and third episode have the most depth. It’s fun to be Markert and visit Vienna’s street vendors or the art salon, observing little ghost figures (the “layers” he sees in people’s personalities) appear behind other characters as you walk by them. You get to choose which character you want to paint, which contributes a lot to the replay value of this episode.

Playing Emma, you face important choices regarding your identity and how you present yourself to others, as you try to overcome the societal obstacles to your career as a female mathematician developing a new “theory of change”. Along the way, you briefly meet Markert in a cafe, who is always on the lookout for interesting people to paint.

The sounds and music of the game—the storm and rain outside Wilma’s cabin; the sound of horses in the streets of Vienna; the chatter of the salon—give the game an immersive quality that you might not expect from looking at its low-resolution graphics. The composition which gives the game its title—the Lion’s Song which Wilma composes in the first episode—plays a role similar to the Cloud Atlas composition in David Mitchell’s book of the same name, connecting the threads of story through a tapestry of beautiful music.

Some elements of the story are a bit forced (the confrontation between mathematicians in front of a class of unruly students comes to mind), but for the most part, you become invested in the characters and their fates. The decision you make truly do have ripple effects throughout the episodes, from the exact composition of the music to the paintings that appear on the walls and the epilogue of the game. Even marginal aspects of the game—credits screens, the “connections” section—are lovingly designed interactive rooms.

You’re unlikely to get more than an evening or two of enjoyment out of this brief game, but the gorgeous art and music, the attention to detail, and the fascinating setting and characters make it unlikely that anyone who enjoys interactive stories would regret this purchase (as of this writing, $10 at GOG).


3 stars
Usable now, incredible potential

FreeCAD is a FOSS 3D parametric modeler that runs on Linux, Mac and Windows. This is a review of version 0.17.

Features

Parametric modeling

Parametric modeling is the killer feature here. It allows you to link dimensions so they autoupdate when the parent changes. This is early software and it shows. Sketches mapped to faces will map themselves to a different plane when editing a feature above the sketch in the feature tree. You can also link dimensions by naming a dimension and then referencing it by name when creating another constraint: Sketch.constraints.name. This part is well thought out and easy to use. Datum features are new in this version and need work. I’ve spent several hours fighting to get the datum planes defined correctly even when doing simple things like creating a copy of the xy plane but higher on the z axis. That being said, once a part is modeled with datum planes and dimensions are controlled with named constraints, everything works well.

Sketcher

Sketcher is on par with commercial programs for the most part. I’ve had issues with auto constraints not always being applied which will cause issues when you try to base a feature on the sketch. The solver has issues that will lead you to overconstrain sketches if you follow its guidance. Fixes for this are already in the 0.18 branch.

UI

Straight forward and relatively easy to use. It’s interface is similar to many other CAD programs with toolbars for commands and a feature tree for the part. The property view panel is a great addition that allows you to see all the properties of feature or sketch and edit them. The UI is confusing when multiple parts are open in seperate tabs because the feature tree keeps both parts in the same pane and doesn’t change focus when you switch tabs. This leads to many unintended edits on the part you can no longer see.

FreeCAD 0.17 (Own work. License: CC-BY-SA.)

Verdict

Software is usable now with quirks that come with early development software. The majority of features of a true 3D parametric modeler seem to be in the program but many need work. Assemblies are not yet implemented… The ongoing development should make this software not only usable but competitive with commercial products in a few years.


5 stars
Great printer

Assembly

i3 mk3 kit (Own work. License: CC-BY-SA.)


Kit arrives in box with several smaller boxes inside for the sub assemblies. Everything is well organized and labeled. The kit comes with tools for assembly, 1 kg of PLA and gummy bears. Assembly of the kit took around 12 hours and can be tedious. Be prepared to spend much more time than that if you aren’t experienced with this kind of work. Assembly instructions were generally good but, use the online version so you can see comments where people had trouble or the instructions were confusing. The tuning once the printer was assembled takes patience and is a bit unsettling. It has you do a pre-programmed print and adjust the z axis down while printing to calibrate extruder to print bed relation.

Assembled i3 mk3 (Own work. License: CC-BY-SA.)
Software

I use Slic3r Prusa edition to create gcode for the machine. The integration is very well done with the defaults for the printer being loaded in automatically. Default settings have been turning out quality prints. PrintRun(pronterface) had no issue connecting to the machine and running prints.

Printing

Printing has been mainly simple parts in pla on the default 0.2mm fast profile with 20% to 80% infill. First layer is consistently good without a brim or raft. Some features have had small issues on the first layer where there’s sharp corners or tight radii, but they rarely cause issues with the overall print. Prints pop off the PEI sheet easily and if you have trouble the entire sheet can be removed and bent. PETG also prints without issue.

Updates

The printed printer parts, software and firmware are all getting continuous updates from Prusa Research. This makes me confident the machine will be well supported throughout its useful life.

Verdict

Reliable machine that produces good prints. Well worth the money versus a cheaper machine in the time and frustration you’ll save.


3 stars
Reliable but needs polishing

Printrun is print control software that allows printer control from a connected computer. I’m reviewing based on my experience on linux.

Installation

The instructions were mediocre and somewhat misleading for Debian stable and Debian Testing. For Debian stable I had to install python3-dev and had to upgrade the wheel package using pip in addition to following the provided instructions. Debian testing instruction were good once I figured out the that proper instruction for testing were 2 sections below the standard installation section.

GUI

The UI shows you everything need but is ugly and a bit awkward to use. The underlying software seems to be solid though as it imported gcode from prusa slic3r that repetier was misinterpreting.

There is the option to setup macros that are mapped to custom buttons along with the ability to work with the console which should give many options for automating tasks.

Untested

  • pronsole(CLI for printrun)

  • printcore(library for controlling all printrun actions using python)

Verdict

Solid software that needs a lot of polishing in the GUI and installation. If you want a pretty GUI there are better options. This will likely become my go to program since it has powerful scripting capability.


74th International Youth Congress of Esperanto
5 stars
Mirinda IJK sub hispana suno  eo

Ĵus finiĝis la 74-a Internacia Junulara Kongreso, kaj ŝajnas, ke ĉiuj partoprenantoj bedaŭras, ke ĝi ne pli longe daŭris. Estis bonega etoso kun multaj jamaj kaj novaj amikoj, kaj diversaj tre interesaj programeroj.

Pri la loko:
Badajoz estas iom malfacile atingebla, sed la retpaĝo bone informis pri la vojaĝebloj. Almenaŭ estis proksime bushaltejo kaj granda vendejaro. La kongresejo estis sufiĉe granda por ne senti sin premita, sed ĉiuj ĉiam sin renkonti en la centra lokoj ĉirkaŭ la trinkejo. La ĝardeno kaj la naĝejo estis grandaj plusoj.

Pri la organizado:
La akceptejo bone funkciis, manĝoj okazis ĝustatempe, programeroj ofte iom malfruis, sed ne tro. Mi lasis mian ŝlosilon en la ĉambro unufoje, kaj ne estis problemo akiri helpon de la loka ne-esperantista teamo. Ilia nekono de Esperanto estis nur apenaŭ rimarkebla ĝeno. Mankis klare legebla programtabulo.

Pri la vespera programo:
Estis bonaj koncertoj kaj bona variado. Iom mankis danciga muziko, sed tion kompensis la diskejo. Kiam finfine post kelkaj tagoj funkciis diskejo, ĉiu nokto estis bona nokto. Mi tro malmulte vizitis la gufujon por pritaksi ĝin.

Pri taga programo:
Mi ne multe spertis la tagan programon pro komitatkunsidoj. Mi tamen ne aŭdis multajn plendojn, krom la kutimaj malfruoj, kaj unu seksisma prelego de Granda Filozofo.

Fine mi volas doni specialan laŭdon al la ĉeforganizanto Carlos Pesquera, kiu sole faris amason da laboro kaj inspiradis la reston de la teamo.


4 stars
Conventional but joyful exploration of classical myths in art

Flying Too Close to the Sun is a large format art-book from Phaidon that examines the influence of classical (Greco-Roman) myths on artistic expression since ancient Greece, for example:

  • the story of Daedalus and Icarus, which inspired the book’s title;

  • the story of Apollo and Daphne: Daphne escapes the lovestruck Apollo by begging a river god to transform her into a tree;

  • the story of the minotaur and of his slayer, Theseus, the founding hero of Athens.

The book features direct artistic references to these stories, from Greek vases to Renaissance paintings and contemporary sculptures. It also includes some modern art that may or may not intentionally reference classical mythology, but that shows some parallels in theme or expression.


Book cover (partial view). The "flares” of the sun include references to the myths explored in the book. (Credit: Phaidon Press. Fair use.)

At 250 x 290 mm (11 3/8 x 9 7/8 in), the book’s format gives these works of art the space they deserve. The captions are clear and often briefly retell the myth that is being discussed. That makes for some repetition in a single reading, but it also makes it easy to open the book at any page without requiring additional context.

As with any art book like this one, it’s possible to quibble about the works that were chosen or overlooked. For example, it will probably take another generation until editors choose to include art from games like Apotheon, a gorgeous indie platformer that brings the artistic style of ancient Greek pottery to life—to say nothing of the ubiquitous references to mythology in big-budget entertainment like God of War.


Apollo and Daphne (1622-25, Bernini) side-by-side with Jean Arp’s Daphné (1955). (Credit: Phaidon Press. Fair use.)

To me, this speaks to the still austere relationship we have with classical myths. In fact, ancient art was colorful, often lewd, and a form of mass entertainment. It provided common reference points in everyday life, it served propaganda purposes, it blended belief with pure pleasure.

While Flying Too Close to the Sun only hints at this, it is a joy to page through the high quality reproductions and photographs, to explore the content of complex paintings with helpful captions, and to become more familiar with the details of these myths. Recommended.

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